Naples Travel Blog› entry 5 of 19 › view all entries
Naples (Italian: Napoli, Neapolitan: Nàpule) is a historic city in southern Italy, the capital of the Campania region and the province of Naples. The city is noted for its rich history, art, culture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,500 years old. Naples is located halfway between two volcanic areas, the volcano Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, sitting on the coast by the Gulf of Naples.
Founded by the Ancient Greeks as Neapolis, meaning New City, it held an important role in Magna Graecia and then as part of the Roman Republic in the central province of the Empire. Naples was the capital city of a kingdom which bore its name from 1282 until 1816 in the form of the Kingdom of Naples, then in union with Sicily it was the capital of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification.
In the modern day, the historic centre of the city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The metropolitan area of Naples is the second most populated in Italy and one of the largest in all of Europe with around 3.8 million people. In the central area, the city itself has a population of around 1 million people, the inhabitants are known as Neapolitans or poetically partenopei. The language spoken by its inhabitants, the Neapolitan language is spoken with similar variations throughout most of Southern Italy.
The city is synonymous with pizza, due to the food originating in it. A strong part of Neapolitan culture which has had wide reaching effects is music, including the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin as well as strong contributions to opera and folk standards.
Greek birth, Roman acquisition
The history of the city can be traced back to the 7th century BC when inhabitants of the nearby Greek colony Cumae founded a city called Parthenope; Cumae itself had been founded by people from Euboea, Greece. The exact reasons for doing so are not known for certain, but the Cumaeans built Neapolis (meaning New City) next to the old Parthenope. Around this time they had held off invasion attempts from the Etruscans. The new city grew thanks to the influence of powerful Greek city-state Siracusa and at some point the new and old cities on the Gulf of Naples merged together to become one.
The city became an ally of the Roman Republic against Carthage; the strong walls surrounding Neapolis stopped invader Hannibal from entering. During the Samnite Wars, the city, now a bustling centre of trade, was captured by the Samnites; however, the Romans soon took it from them and made Neapolis a Roman colony. The city was greatly respected by the Romans as a place of Hellenistic culture: the people maintained their Greek language and customs; elegant villas, aqueducts, public baths, an odeon, a theatre and the Temple of Dioscures were built, and many powerful emperors chose to holiday in the city including Claudius and Tiberius. It was during this period that Christianity came to Naples; apostles St. Peter and St. Paul are said to have preached in the city. Also, St. Januarius, who would become Naples' patron saint, was martyred there.
In the area surrounding Naples are the islands of Procida, Capri and Ischia, which are reached by hydrofoils and ferries. Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are situated south of Naples. The Roman ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae, which were destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, are also nearby. Naples is also near the volcanic area known as the Campi Flegrei and the port towns of Pozzuoli and Baia, which were part of the vast Roman naval facility, Portus Julius.